Sniffer dog uncovers 14,000 illegal cigarettes being sold ‘under the counter’

A stash of 14,000 illegal cigarettes was found hidden in the back of the shop after members of the public tipped off the authorities.

Insider information that tobacco was being sold ‘under the counter’ was being fed to Oldham Council officers, leading them to the huge bust at Ali General Store in Pitt Street.

Trading Standards officers, along with a specialist sniffer dog, raided the shop in June, 2019.

The dog discovered a total of 14,640 illicit cigarettes which were then seized.

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Company director Saqib Ali, of Pitt Street, pleaded guilty to two charges at Tameside Magistrates’ Court on June 24 under the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015.

The 32-year-old was handed a £500 fine and ordered to pay £650 costs.

Ali General Stores Ltd was given a £2,000 fine and told to pay £650 costs after a guilty plea to two charges under the same regulations.

Zaks Local Limited, Failsworth

On June 17, the council prosecuted another trader for selling illegal cigarettes and singles to customers – despite previously being given a written warning by Trading Standards for the offence. A total of 404 cigarettes were seized.

Abdur Rahman, sole director of Zaks Local Limited, of Hardman Lane, Failsworth, pleaded guilty to one offence under the Trade Marks Act 1994 and two offences under the 2015 regulations.

The 29-year-old from Stanley Grove, Manchester was fined £120 fine and costs of £425.

Zaks Local Ltd was sentenced to a £200 fine plus costs of £425 to the same offences.

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All the seized cigarettes were forfeited and will be destroyed.

Under the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products Regulations 2015 it is an offence to sell single cigarettes.

Incorrect labelling on any tobacco means it is ‘probably illegal’, says the council as it slams illicit cigarette trading.

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Deputy Leader of Oldham Council and Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “Thanks to the good work of our Trading Standards Team, and tip offs from residents, a lot of illegal cigarettes were seized.

“Oldham Council would always encourage people not to smoke as it’s unhealthy and can have long term consequences.

“However, if people do decide to smoke then they should at least be getting legal products.

“We are working with partners across Greater Manchester to drive down the illegal trade and the market is declining but it still goes on.

“If you know where cheap tobacco is being sold, often as ‘duty free’, please get in touch. We will take action if we find illegal tobacco for sale.”

Andrea Crossfield, Making Smoking History Lead at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership added: “Illegal tobacco might seem like a bargain but it comes at a high price to our kids and our communities.

“Legal or illegal, all tobacco contains a toxic cocktail of chemicals which will kill one in two long term smokers.

“Illegal cigarettes are often responsible for getting children started on this lethal addiction, because of their availability at pocket money prices and because dealers don’t care who they sell to.

“The crackdown on illegal tobacco is part of wider efforts to cut smoking rates and make smoking history for future generations.”

The sale of illegal tobacco can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at

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Manchester Evening News – Oldham